One year on, a lot has been written about the impact of the Borders Railway but has it given tourism in Midlothian a boost? It's certainly on the right tracks, writes Ian Gardner (Midlothian Tourism Forum).
Many parts of Midlothian already benefit from good bus connections to and from Edinburgh, serving visitors as well as local residents, and the railway has provided another quick and direct route to the area. It’s now much faster, for instance, to reach the National Mining Museum, from Edinburgh or the Borders, and there are some good examples of local accommodation providers offering collection services to and from Midlothian’s stations to their premises.
On a more strategic level, the Borders Railway has been the catalyst for a huge amount of marketing activity undertaken by VisitScotland, in partnership with Midlothian Council, including advertising, familiarisation visits for tour operators and some great media coverage, including stories as far afield as in the Chinese media and New York Times. This activity is hard, if not impossible, to measure in just one year, as sometimes it may take months for a media feature to appear or it may take a tour operator several years to sell an itinerary, but the seed was sown during their visit. Undoubtedly, the profile of Midlothian, and its range of places to stay and things to see and do, has increased immensely thanks to coverage generated by the Borders Railway.
The railway has also provided the impetus for closer working between tourism businesses in Midlothian and the Borders. A couple of well-attended meetings have taken place to bring businesses and organisations together, to look at opportunities and much more work in this area is in the pipeline for the coming months.
The Borders Railway may not be providing all the solutions for Midlothian’s tourism industry, and its impact may not be as instant as some might like – the test of the Midlothian Explorer bus is a good example of that. However, ease of access to an area is of fundamental importance to any destination and so Midlothian's tourism industry can look forward to the benefits of the Borders Railway for many years to come.